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Lijiang Dayan Town

Lijiang Town is officially called "Dayan Town"-- "Dayan" literally means a "great inkstab", a graphic description of the town's location on a piece of rich flatland fed by a river and surrounded by green mountains. There is no other town in China like Dayan which incorporates the folkways of so many people and the architectural styles of both north and south China. Some say that Lijiang is not unique just because it is unique in too many ways-- how true this is.



The air antiquity assumed by the town testifies to the wisdom of the Naxi people in building it here, not elsewhere. The town is on flatland about 2,400 meters above sea level. To its north are Mt. Xiangshan and Mt.Jinhong and to its west, Mt. Shizi, which effectively shield the town from winter winds. For miles upon miles, cropland expands to the southeast, where the sunshine is abundant and the climate, mild, characterized by breezes blown from the south that cools the summer heat in June and July. It is this area that the local people have turned into a "granary".



What is especially interesting is the way people use water from the Jade Springs. The flow is diverged into the city through three channels. Taking a stroll in the town, you find water your constant companion, flowing merrily either in a stream at your side or in tunnels beneath your foot. To the human race, water means life. To Dayan town, however, it brings not only life, but also beauty. Unlike those asphalted roads in big cities which are straight, streets here wind naturally along streams and around hills. On the West River in the town, there is a sluice-gate which, when lifted, allows water to pour into the city for street washing.



The Yulong Mountains are located where the Qinghai-Tibet and Yunnan-Guizhou plateaus interlock, and together they form the peak of the Yunling Mountains-- the southern-most section of the Himalaya Mountain range. Harboring a string of marine glaciers, the Yunlong mountain range, with snow accumulated over ages, extends unbroken for 35 kilometers, forming the "Jade Dragon" dancing in clouds. Its silvery "scales" shining bright, the "dragon" has a proudly erect "head" in the far north, while its other parts, rolling south, look like the back of the "dragon." The southernmost peak, rising 5,596 meters above sea level, is also known as the "jade pillar that props up the sky."



Earthen and wooden housing structures are most popular. A typical courtyard here resembles what is found in Beijing-- walled and in neat squares, with the principle rooms facing south. Unlike the Beijing courtyard which has rooms facing east and west, spacious corridors line both sides of the Nazi courtyard which also has an imposing arch over the gateway.
Bridges are seen everywhere, linking streets and lanes. Many were built during the Ming and Qing period from the 14th to the early 20th centuries which have survived the wars and earthquakes. For all this, the town is known as the "Venice of China" or the "Suzhou on the plateau."



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